Jul 282016
 

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(image courtesy – Times of India)

Any good boss, worth his/her salt will not expect you to spend too much time with them. Good bosses, empower their teams to make their decisions – allow them space to make errors, and allow them to grow. They expect the (empowered) person to think, do, and deliver. Not to spend time with them. If your boss is needy for company, find a new boss 🙂 Because, only insecure bosses expect face time from their reportees….. You need to remember this about a workspace – it is a professional set up, not a darbar.

I feel for the agency person (or inhouse person) who came up with this — they have had the wrong bosses. they aren’t going to grow, or go anywhere. What is expected is delivery. Not keeping the boss company 🙂

And, i am not even going to outrage on the sheer sexism of this. The stupidity is far more stunning.

#justsaying

(Ps… someone reached out to me — CEO apparently is career enhancement officer … which brings me to another point, if you have to explain an ad, you are in trouble)

Jul 282016
 

(this first appeared on shethepeople.tv )

A headline caught my eye today, and made me grimace. “Chennai man killed by speeding Audi, police to determine if woman driver was drunk.” It made me ask the same question I seek to answer, every time I write. Is a descriptor needed? Does the line still read right, if I bump off the word ‘woman’. Does it really make a difference whether the drunk is a man or a woman? But, there are things that we don’t expect women to do. And, it is not just headline writers. A few days ago, a professional acquaintance was telling me about a case of corruption in a private company, and someone getting sacked. “She was caught red handed” they said. I responded “a woman taking a bribe?” part incredulous, part shocked. Frankly, after all these years of working, some of it in news, things like this should not surprise or shock me, but they do. There are things we expect of men and women, and there are things we don’t expect them to do.

All of us, to a greater or lesser extent refer to the world, through gender lenses. There are things we expect ourselves to do, and expect to be done for us. And, it applies to men, women, and society at large.  The number of female friends who do not pay attention to personal finance (I used to be one of them), and leave it to the men in their family; the number of men who have no cooking skills, and leave it all to the women in their family (how many men do you know who tell you they can just make tea, and boil an egg). These are at a very basic level. And, the roles determined by culture and society, which we broadly call gender roles, impact both sexes.

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(Trapped & Chained by gender)

At my age, my father was the main provider for a family of 7. A spouse, 3 children, and two from the older generation. He never went on holiday. Or got himself  new clothes. We lived on a honest Government servant’s salary, that was supplemented by a honest teacher’s salary.  I asked him, much later in life didn’t he crave for the nicer things in life – a new pair of shoes, a watch, a new tie, maybe even a holiday.  He laughed and said, ‘I had the pleasure of seeing you all grow, I didn’t really need anything more.”  My father was the provider. My mother was the nurturer. He loved photography and travel. She loved reading and studying. Both put their dreams away for us. A former colleague of mine, who wanted to start up, put his dreams aside. He wanted to be the good provider. Another colleague, stayed at home to look after her family, because she believed it was her role. One is not judging any of the decisions here, one is simply saying that our decision making is often, even sub consciously, based on gender programming.

While sex is biological, gender is societal programming.  And, while we often talk about how gender roles impact women, the fact is, it impacts both.  A woman is expected to be responsible for the upbringing of the children and taking care of the household, never mind if she has other dreams. A man is expected to go out and provide for his family, dreams be damned.

The question of gender has come back into the public sphere in a big way, for the first time since the 1970s. And, it has to do with discrimination. And, that discrimination is neither governmental, nor organizational. Both encourage diversity. That discrimination is innate. Within individuals. And, most of us don’t even recognize it, because so much of it is linked to society, culture and traditions.

So the starting point in ending discrimination is to recognize that there is something called genderthat is a product of society and culture, and that it is very distinct from sex that is determined at the point of conception. It has to do with roles that we perform. If we accept that roles have little  to do with biology, then we can make a beginning to end gender.

As women, we cannot achieve equality, until we recognize that men are as weighed down bygender roles as women are. The average  man –father, brother, partner, colleague, friend – is not patriarchy. He is an individual, just like the average woman. Maybe a set of conversations will help change things at the individual level. A conversation on dreams, and wishes, and how they can be achieved, may really help redress the balance in our own immediate universe. And, many adjoining universes, may end up shifting the balance towards a more gender free, or gender neutral world.  It is the world we owe future generations.

Jun 062016
 

Most mass media practitioners will tell you that classical music is elitist. that it is mean to be enjoyed in rarified atmospheres, with others in their social class. There is a general perception that mass audiences will not enjoy classical music. And, that, ‘mass’ is defined as lower socio economic classes.

54f3d7137fa52ef85622ab2adcead570Like most mass audience assumptions, this is untrue. As children, even as young adults, when we went for concerts – usually open air concerts in various grounds across Mumbai, what you would see is a sprinkling of people across classes – auto rickshawallahs to CEO’s and promoters – sitting next to each other, and just becoming part of the music.

Consistent litigation, and the banning of open air, all night concerts – i have been to one, at shivaji park,  where it began with a puriya (at 7 pm, and ended with an Aahir Bhairav at dawn), – and consistent middle class intolerance with other people enjoying themselves; as well as judicial intervention has led to the mass dissemination of classical, and mass participation, declining. Also, it has led to a decline in innovative solutions for noise pollution.  There are technical ways of limiting sound within a given perimeter. Ban is so bloody binary. solutions are so much more interesting.

But, i digress. One of the reasons why classical is considered elitist, is because we – mass media professionals – like stereotyping our audiences. If you are 16-18 you must be a cool chaser; if you are young, you must want edgy and rude; if you are a guy you must want to watch other guys talk about sex; if you are a girl, you must talk about men, kids and make up. Which tells you why there is such a rate of churn on shows, and why so many films flop. Formula work, till a point that they don’t work. And, in today’s market, most tried and tested formulae are failing.

Unfortunately, audiences are people And, people are complex. And, in a digital world, these assumptions are not just wrong, but to work with them, is suicidal stupidity 🙂

Just as a case in point, here is a video from America’s got talent. Hear the singer (from the second minute) and more importantly, watch the audience. And, note your own reactions to the song. And, tell me, you won’t mind sampling, watching or listening to stuff like this

Laura Bretan sings.

Btw – this is Pavarotti with Nessun Dorma –

i don’t understand a word of what he says, but the music my soul understands.

 

May 092016
 

I am possibly the last generation that grew up with an oral tradition. Our grandmothers, and parents, would tell us stories from the puranas, the epics, and of sages and saints, to inculcate values. I am not quite sure that we, as children, saw them as value systems, they were just good stories. As we grew up, we imbibed those values, and those became the bedrock of our lives – the theist and the atheists in the family.

Among the stories we heard, were why we observe certain days as ‘auspicious’. And, since today is akshaya Tritiya , it seems apt that i put some of my more favourite stories’ down.

The Goddess of Grains and food, Annapurna, manifested herself on this day. As kids we were told, that if we waste food, Annapurna would be sad, and go to the banks of the river and cry. And when she cried, the waters from the rains would dry up, there would be drought. The thought of a goddess crying was so traumatic, that, i don’t think any of us (siblings or cousins) wasted food.

The other story, that has stuck in mind, was that of the Akshaya Patram. The Pandavas receive it as a gift, and it gave enough food for the six exiled members. And, given it’s nature, it would give food till the point that Draupadi, after feeding her husbands, ate. Once Durvasa (the sage with anger control issues) turns up with his followers at the Pandavas doorstep, after Draupadi has eaten, and demands to be fed. Durvasa was prodded by the Kauravas to make the visit. Food is over. And, there is no possibility of food for so many being made ready, in the time taken for the the rishis to perform their ablutions before the meal. Draupadi calls out to her friend Krishna (and I use the friend specifically, because that was the nature of their relationship). Krishna appears, and tells Draupadi he is hungry, and she should bring the Akshaya Patram. He finds a single morsel of grain stuck to the vessel. He eats that left over morsel with immense satisfaction. And, the hunger of the world is sated. Durvasa and his disciples go away, without returning to the Pandavas abode, because their hunger is sated. It was another set of lessons – the first was on the importance of a single morsel of food. The second, that for God, even a single morsel of leftover food, given by those who love him, was as important as all the feast and riches that you could offer.

The story of Sudama and his offering of poha, to Krishna, is another story we heard. We were told, God does not expect great offerings. The poorest person’s offerings, with all devotion and love, is as great (if not greater) than the greatest riches on earth. Even today, while we boil milk, or make food, or eat food – we utter  ‘brahmarpanam‘  (we offer to the universe, what we take from it). I still get goosebumps when i read the story of Sudama and Krishna, and the sheer simplicity of faith and love.

And, the final story is from the life of Adi Shankara (and we are followers of this tradition in Hinduism). The story goes that Adi Shankara is out begging for food (as mendicants did). Bhavati bhiksham dehi,  he would say before each house, and the lady of the house would give alms (food) that would sustain him for one more day. One day, he goes to the door of a really poor woman, who has nothing, except old nellika (amla). Cringing with embarrassment she offers that to him. He is so awed by her generosity, legend has it, that he composed the Kanakadhara stotram, right there. The roof opens up and showers riches in the form of golden nellis (amlas)  on the woman.

This is MS singing the Kanakadhara stotram

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i wonder what kind of stories we will tell to generations that come, about Akshaya Tritiya . Will we tell them about conservation, not wasting, sharing, and thanks giving, or will it become associated for ever with marketeers and sales.

In the Hindu tradition that i was brought up in, Akshaya Tritiya is about sharing, about giving, about thanking the universe for it’s bounty. Somewhere, that has gotten lost in the ‘buy gold’ and consume. I think, as a matter of principle (and just to be cussed), i will not buy anything today 🙂

btw, this post was brought about by this

at

 

May 082016
 

The communication from banks, for just about generations, is save today ‘bete ki padai, beti ki shaadi’. I am not even getting into the implicit sexism of this, simply because stereotypes work in advertising, and this is how India (and much of the world) was structured. Girls got married. The bride’s side paid for the wedding, and the gifts. And, that was that. There is enough and more literature on the financial and peer pressure on the bride’s family to meet up with ‘standards of weddings’, and I am not even talking about dowry.

It impacts all socio-economic groups, and while the amount may vary, the financial load is there. And, this is not an Indian problem alone.  Across most of the world, the bride’s side has picked up the tab for weddings, though that is changing slowly. I know of enough and more instances, where families on both sides have split expenses.

But, saving for a wedding and borrowing for a wedding are two very different things. We have heard of people borrowing so that ‘ apni beti ki shaadi dhoom dhaam se karenge’ and most of those stories have come to a bitter end. Some of those farmers debts that we read about, are also for these kind of expenses (not just crop related) – as, i said earlier – the amounts may be relative, but it is a steep financial commitment.

Therefore when a leading bank puts out communication like this, it makes me see kind of red (to match their logo colours)

 

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In a country, where the pressure on the bride’s family to conform to ‘spending traditions’ is huge – this is a terribly irresponsible advertisement. Even, if there were no pressure, what is the bank suggesting – that the newly married couple start their life in debt for a single day event ?

Far more sensible would have been – we had a simple wedding, and icici helped us use the saved money (at a better rate) to buy a house. #justsaying